Solid waste production is something we, as humans, create every day. Most human activity involves the creation of trash, for example eating or even the recycling of the very paper I am writing on. I decided to complete an environmental impact assessment to observe my trash accumulation for a week. This made me more conscious on the trash I was throwing away, and it also made me aware of the amount of garbage that could be recycled. The project sounded easier than it was, collect data by gathering enough trash to make some sort of assessment by it.
The rest of this paper will illustrate the project in more depth. The data that was needed to be collected was simple, all of my trash. I decided to collect it by carrying a trash bag with me for a weeks time. I figured that a week would be a sufficient amount of time to have enough data to be able to form some sort of conclusion from it. It was somewhat of a bother to be carting a bag of trash everywhere I went, but I realized how much trash one creates which they do not throw out themselves.
For example, when you eat at a restaurant, the employees usually dispose of your garbage for you, and you leave empty-handed, but I had to take every piece of trash with me. In the beginning it seemed a bit embarrassing to pull out a trash bag in the restaurant at the end of a meal and clear my trash into it, but I soon realized that it was not embarrassing in the least way. What I was doing in fact was very interesting. I was calculating the amount of garbage in pounds that I was creating in one week to see the impact I made on the environment.
All humans have an impact on the environment, individually and as a whole, I wanted to see my own personal contribution to that impact. To record my data, I dumped out my trash bag at the end of the week and sorted it out, writing down every item that it held. I had tried my hardest to keep all the recyclables separated into different bags while I was collecting so that I wouldn t have to separate it all later. I ended up with six different containers, sorted into trash, cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic. I used paper bags to keep the separate recyclables in, since they, also could be recycled.
Once everything was sorted out, I wrote it down on paper, keeping each bag as a separate category, as seen in figure #1. This shows my whole collection of garbage as it was separated. The period of time in which I collected my data was 7 days, which included the weekend I was traveling to my sister s college in Pennsylvania with my family. This small diversion from my regular schedule made a huge difference on the amount of trash I would have collected on another week. Although this diversion changed the results of my data, I decided to use this weekend to show the difference traveling would make.
For instance, I normally do not use Styrofoam, but when I was at a restaurant in Pennsylvania, I was given a doggie bag in a Styrofoam container. This makes a big difference in the weight of my trash, Styrofoam is not very good for the environment, but pound wise, it is very light. Although this week of collection was different from the rest, it is still trash I created, and everyone strays from their normal routine, but they still create garbage. There were certain facts of this project that I chose to ignore. Food was one of them.
Since I unfortunally do not have a compost in my apartment, my food gets thrown out. I usually try to eat fresh foods so that I do not have the waste produced by the packaging of pre-made foods, and I also try to use every piece of the fruit or vegatable, so as to waste as little as possible. I also do not eat meat, so that considerably reduces my garbage by not having the packaging and the discards from the meat. If I was to weigh the amount of food which could have been composted, I am sure that it would be a small amount compared to the weight of all my recyclables.
Other factors helped to make my decision to ignore my food waste, like the fact that it would smell awful and rot in my garbage bag as I was carrying it around with me for the week. In addition, because I was on the road for some part of my assessment, it would not have been easy to gather all the excess food while I was eating in the different restaurants. The results of the assessment were not as I expected. I had a considerable less amount of trash than I assumed I would in the beginning. I believe this is because I was eating out and did not produce the same garbage as I would have if I had cooked the food myself.
The total amount of trash, weighed in pounds, not including the recyclables, measured 0. 7 pounds. Although the total weight of the recyclables was unmeasured, I have divided each item of waste into the six categories and compared them to the amount of waste I had as a whole. I calculated percentages to determine the accumulation of each item of garbage in their separate categories. (see chart #1)
As one can see from this chart, my actual trash category was much larger than the other recyclables, resulting in 67. 2% of my total accumulation of waste. Paper was the second biggest, yielding 21. 99% of the waste, and the other recyclables considerably less. This weeklong assessment had such a huge impact on my life. It taught me to be even more conscious of my waste, and which items can and cannot be recycled. There are so many more recyclable items that those that we know about. For a short, informal list of recyclable items, taken from the Internet at: www. obviously. com/recycle/guides/shortest. html, please note figure #2.
Recycling most of these items would result in much less trash, which would then result in a slower growth of landfills. Therefore, my impact on the environment and the filling of the landfills would be much less, than it would be if I recycled more of my waste. Even though I recycled most of my waste, my participation in this project has influenced me to think about and learn about more ways to recycle different refuse items. If every human on this earth could realize the huge impact they, as individuals, make on the production of garbage, maybe more things that we throw out would be recycled.
Then our trash production would be much less, and our landfills would not fill as quickly. It is understood that every person has a different situation, lifestyle, physical setting, and unique demograph which allows them to or not to be able to recycle. Despite these situations, every little effort we make to recycle makes an impact on our trash production. In conclusion, by figuring out my own personal contribution to the impact on our environment, collecting my trash for a week, and then assessing it, I have realized that my solid waste productions are not normal.
I am relating this to that fact that the dumpster outside my apartment building must be emptied every week because it is overflowing with trash. The recycle bins, though, are much smaller and do not fill up as quickly, which says to me that there is not a strong enough effort to recycle as there should be. If the dumpster at my apartment building in Keene, New Hampshire is overflowing at the rate it is, how does that relate to the rest of the world? This impact is something that needs to be studied and assessed by professionals in white lab coats.